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Published: Friday, 4/1/2005

11 Dems who bucked system face sanctions

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

The Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee voted last night to sanction seven members of Toledo City Council and four members of the Toledo Board of Education because they supported candidates who were competing against endorsed Democrats.

Sanctioned were council President Louis Escobar; at-large Councilmen Frank Szollosi and Karyn McConnell-Hancock, and district Councilmen Wilma Brown, Mike Ashford, Ellen Grachek, and Wade Kapszukiewicz.

The school board members sanctioned were Peter Silverman, David Welch, Deborah Barnett, and Larry Sykes.

The sanctions ban those officeholders from receiving any support from the party or its organizations, including financial donations, use of party headquarters, and use of volunteers. They will not appear on party literature and will not be otherwise recognized.

The sanctions will last one year and will be applied in the year in which the sanctioned candidates next appear on the ballot, said John Irish, a top aide to party Chairman Jack Wilson.

Mr. Escobar, Mr. Szollosi, and Ms. McConnell-Hancock will serve their sanctions this year. Ms. Brown, Mr. Ashford, and Ms. Grachek will serve their sanctions in 2007.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who will take over as county treasurer this fall, will serve his sanction in 2008.

The seven council members were sanctioned because they supported Phil Copeland, an officer of Laborers International Union of North America Local 500, for appointment to fill an at-large vacancy on council over endorsed candidate Mark Sobczak, an executive with Teamsters Local 20.

Mr. Copeland won the appointment but must run this year to hold onto the seat. Mr. Sobczak also will be an at-large candidate this year.

Mr. Silverman and Mr. Welch will be sanctioned this year. Ms. Barnett and Mr. Sykes will serve their sanctions in 2007.

The school board members were sanctioned for supporting the appointment of Steven Thomas, an official with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 500, to the board. He won out over endorsed Democrat Ken Roach, an official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8.

The executive committee met behind closed doors, but shouting at times could be heard in the lobby of Democratic headquarters on Madison Avenue. The meeting lasted 90 minutes.

"We have an organization here. We have rules, and we are asking those who we endorse to follow those rules," Mr. Irish said.

At the heart of the struggle is a split in the party that finds most elected Democrats in the county in one faction known as the "A team," and those in control of party headquarters in a second faction known as the "B team." All the sanctioned councilmen are members of the A team.

"Party Politics 101, the whole reason that a party exists is to endorse and support and elect candidates," Mr. Szollosi said in a telephone interview last night. "This group disrespects elected officials. You saw that in how they treated Wade. You see that in how they are treating Mayor [Jack] Ford."

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said after the meeting that "it sounds like we're being kicked out of the party. There are now more Democrats on the outside of this organization looking in than are on the inside looking out."

Mayor Ford, also an A team member and Copeland supporter, was not sanctioned because he did not vote regarding the appointment of Mr. Copeland.

However, he did give Mr. Copeland $200 to help fund a small campaign to woo council members before the appointment vote in January, campaign finance reports on file with the county elections board show.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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